Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ranking the best Commodores in recent history

Good friend Chris Lee of the esteemed recently counted down the top 10 Vanderbilt athletes he has covered over the last five years.

Chris provides an in-depth argument for each Commodore on his list, although you have to be a subscriber to read it. Without further ado, here it is:

1. Pedro Alvarez
2. Shan Foster
3. David Price
4. Jay Cutler
5. Earl Bennett
6. Matt Freije
7. Jeremy Sowers
8. Ryan Flaherty
9. Chris Williams
10. Derrick Byars

In addition, Chris includes his "best of the rest":

11. Dominic de la Osa (baseball)
12. Moses Osemwegie (football)
13. Jonathan Goff (football)
14. Warner Jones (baseball)
15. Justin Geisinger (football)
16. David Macias (baseball)
17. Jensen Lewis (baseball)
18. Ryan Klosterman (baseball)
19. Jovan Haye (football)
20. Matt Buschmann (baseball)
21. Corey Smith (basketball)
22. Brian Stamper (football)
23. Ryan Mullins (baseball)
24. Mario Moore (basketball)
25. Casey Weathers (baseball)
26. Mike Baxter (baseball)
27. Alex Gordon (basketball)
28. Marcus Buggs (football)
29. Cesar Nicholas (baseball)
30. Curtis Gatewood (football)

Before I share my own top 10, here are a few thoughts on Chris' list.

* I think David Price deserves to be ahead of Pedro Alvarez. Price will go down as one of the most dominant college pitchers of all-time. Price was the face of the program and led the Commodores to a SEC regular season and tournament championship in 2007. From his overpowering fastball and vicious slider to humbled and outgoing personality, we'll never see anyone quite like him again.

* I would put Earl Bennett ahead of Jay Cutler. Sure, Cutler became a first-round draft pick after a terrific senior season, but to me, they don't get much better than Bennett, who leaves as the SEC's most prolific receiver. Bennett was loved by everyone, and not just because of what he did on Saturdays. He was always approachable, always modest, always smiling. Put simply, it was impossible not to like him.

* You can't go wrong with putting David Price or Shan Foster in the top spot. I'm just fortunate to have covered both of them.

* How in the world is Mario Moore on this list, especially ahead of Casey Weathers or fellow point guard Alex Gordon? And why no Dan Cage in the top 30?

* Derrick Byars, along with Weathers, is clearly hurt by the fact that he did not play three or four seasons at Vanderbilt. Still, watching DeeBee turn to the crowd and yell "We ain't going home!" after that double-overtime thriller in Sacramento is my fondest Commodore memory. Byars played at another level that entire season.

* I think Jonathan Goff deserves to be higher on the list. Goff is the most intense and driven athlete I've met. It was always fun trying to get a quote longer than one or two sentences out of him.

OK, enough rambling. Here's my list:

1. Shan Foster
2. David Price
3. Earl Bennett
4. Pedro Alvarez
5. Jay Cutler
6. Matt Freije
7. Ryan Flaherty
8. Derrick Byars
9. Jonathan Goff
10. Alex Gordon

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.


Anonymous said...

My List:

1. Price
2. Foster
3. Bennett
4. Cutler
5. Alvarez
6. Byars
7. Frieje
8. Williams
9. Sowers
10. Flash

I would have Casey in my top 15 along with Moses, DLO, Goff and maybe Corey Smith (whose stats do not do justice to his impact as the cleaner).

And, for the record, the gaps in my list are a massive one between David and Shan, an even more massive one between Pedro and DB, and then a relatively decent gap between JemSow and Flash (who despite being my all-time favorite Dore, was always overshadowed by his teammates).

For the record, on Pedro being #1, the one thing which Chris doesn't harp on but I do believe is his best justification is that no VU athlete in my memory has been so absolutely defined as the star of his sport in the nation. Even when he played with David, it's my opinion that Pedro was always the biggest star and attraction. And on TeamUSA, if you go back and watch the archived footage, the camera always would find its way to Pedro. It was like having Tyler Hansbrough on your team. He's going to dominate and he might not put up the absolute best production, but he's always going to be the guy who everyone hypes and talks about.

Aram Hanessian said...

I think Mario Moore is absolutely one of the 30 best athletes at Vandy in the past 5 years. Jarred, we only saw the worst of him and missed the best so I don't think it's fair to say he had should be behind a guy who basically was important for one year. In my mind, Frieje should also be higher, he did lead the team to a Sweet 16, although his greatness was mostly more than 5 years ago. Pedro's hype was due to two things. Firstly he turned down big money from the Red Sox to attend college, which is always big news and secondly he's from NY, which always adds to a players recognition, and rightly so I might add.

Anonymous said...

Aram, Pedro wasn't as hyped until his swan song with Bayside. Playing in the NTC Ivy League (my old stomping ground as a player) you are going up against terrible competition. Turning down the Sox was a nice story, but plenty of players have been offered more and turned it down.

What makes Pedro special is his hands. You see him hit and his fast and strong wrists and you're seeing something special. That's what makes him the player everyone stops to watch.

Jarred Amato said...

Good point about Mario. I guess his senior season skewed the way I view him.

NY Dore, you're definitely right about Pedro's star factor, but I'm curious why you think there is a "massive" gap between DP and Shan.

Aram Hanessian said...

The NY thing has to do not only with what HS he went to, and I know the competition was weak I played (and beat) most of those teams in HS while he was there, but things like being on the front page of the Times sports section which surely wouldn't happen to a guy from the middle of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

I think it's no contest for who should be number 1. Shan certainly closed the gap his senior year, but DP had the most decorated year for any athlete in SEC history, sweeping every award available. He also was a sure thing first overall pick. Absolutely destroyed IP and K records. Most importantly he was a great leader both on and off the field. Shan probably was a better leader in the community, but DP and Carter Hawkins were the best team leaders in the last five years followed by Jay.

I'm not saying Shan was a poor team leader, but there's a difference between being able to put a team on your back (like Shan did with pretty good success as a Senior) and being able to elevate the level of your teammates (which DP, Carter and Jay did by maintaining the locker room and getting the most out of your teammates).

Also, despite having numbers as a Soph that were a bit disappointing, David was still a finalist (one of five) for the Golden Spikes Award as a Soph. That says a whole lot.

Had Pedro not been injured or had Earl returned for a third season and actually had an offense that would use him for more than a decoy half the time, then maybe they could have made a run at DP... or had Shan been more assertive earlier in his career maybe he could have. But ultimately, the only player who ever dominated at a level equivalent to DP was probably Casey Weathers (for one year). Slightly trailing that dominance were Pedro's first two years, DLO, Jay and Shan's Senior years and Earl for a four game stretch in his Freshman year. You can argue that DP was as dominant as the other guys best years (despite a poor W-L as a Frosh and a 4.1 ERA as a Soph) throughout his career.

Also, I'm freely ready to admit that I'm biased by the fact that Bonnie Price makes a mean brisket at tailgates.

Anonymous said...

PS. If I go back and watch the MSU highlights for the 50th time, I'll probably admit the gap isn't that close.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say "gap isn't that far".

Jarred Amato said...

Haha bet the brisket is amazing.

Can't argue with any of your points about DP and have no problem with him being No. 1, but I think you're underestimating Shan as a leader.

After his sophomore year, the program was at a crossroads. It could have gone either way, and Shan and Red decided that they were going to hold their teammates accountable and make practice fun. The Dores went on to make the NCAA Tourney the next 2 years and give the program the needed momentum to attract the big-time recruits that we're seeing now.

"I've told these seniors that they're going to go down as the group that's changed the program the most from the time they got here to the time they left," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, "and I think that's a heck of a legacy."

Furthermore, Shan was just as well-known nationally, if not more, while in college (DP has blown up lately). Shan played the school's most recognizable sport, looked and sang like Usher, wore stylish suits after games, etc. He was a star in every sense of the word.

And, you're right about that Senior Night performance. People are going to talk about that one for decades.

Anonymous said...

Jarred, I'm not saying Shan wasn't a good leader (and he was very much a star). That said, to say someone had a high profile in basketball and that DP or Pedro had a high profile in baseball is apples to oranges.

DP wasn't as big a name as Pedro in college, but was still one of the top 5 names in the game. Shan likely was a top 50 most known in hoops despite his success.

As for leadership, I don't have the inside insight you have, but Shan always seemed too passive until his senior year. He seemed to never really realize his talents and was content to play second fiddle to DB. That may not be a fair assessment, nor is the fact that I do hold against him a bit that at the end of the year it looked like everyone on the team was a bit lost and Shan saved a couple of games but ultimately they didn't play their best baseball when it mattered.

I try not to go back to individual games because I'd change my mind too much. Watching any of Flash down the stretch in 2007 and I might have said he was the best player on that team. Watching DLO midseason and he was the best player in the country. Pedro, when on, could make pitchers poop their pants. According to Mike Rapp, when Casey entered his senior year game against UK in relief of DP, the on deck batter watching him warm up may actually have pooped his pants a bit. And watching Jay in 2005 working with what little he had... darn, we've been really spoiled of late.

Jarred Amato said...

Two final thoughts from me:

1) We really have been spoiled. These athletes aren't just great for Vanderbilt standards -- they're great on a national scale. I'd say it's the best five-year span in school history, right?

2) Upon further review, I'm giving the nod to DP. I've been convinced.

Tony Arnold said...

Ahhh the evils of trying to rank people.

Fun to have to decide from so many. That is the important point.

Anonymous said...

Hey Aram. Where did you go to school? I was a Collegiate kid.

Anonymous said...

Mario Moore's sophomore season alone puts him in the top 20. Don't forget that if he hadn't carried the team when Frieje had a bad game in the first round against Western Michigan, we would have lost.
Also, Cutler is number one. He was the football team for four years. And beat UT.